An entire decade before YouTube, I created the first online film site dedicated to movies made exclusively for the web. It was called The New Venue. Back when computers still used disks and modems, and the promise of online cinema was distant, I encouraged filmmakers to push the boundaries of this emerging medium. Why? Because constraints spark creativity. The site showcased short, postage stamp sized movies and taught valuable digital filmmaking tips. One day, we’d all be watching films and videos everywhere, and somebody needed to champion their quality. It was never meant to be me. I simply couldn’t find anyplace else curating new movies for this new medium, so I built one.
In 1999, my scrappy side project beat Rolling Stone Magazine at SXSW for “Best Use of Video on the Internet.” More awards followed, among them a Webby nomination, and Apple started promoting New Venue selections each week. (The site’s reputation grew without any push on my part, I just went along for the ride. By 25, I was being flown around the world to lecture on the future of film.) The New Venue survived into the early 2000s and during that time received unsolicited coverage from the likes of ABC, BBC, CNN, Wired, Variety, Spin, Fortune, The New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, Rollling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek, and others. For a spin-off, I organized The Aggressively Boring Film Festival as the first ever mobile film festival.
Here is how the web site looked and functioned. The cardboard box filled the full screen: monitors were smaller then.
Then the bubble burst. Amid the collateral damage I discovered it’s rarely about who gets there first. The New Venue kept its loyal following even after I stopped updating it and still, to this day, I occasionally meet fans of the site.
Persona (above), one of New Venue’s flagship films, was co-directed with Kristie Lu Stout.
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